Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19

“Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

66. FDA actions to ensure a safe and effective vaccine
Q: Is it possible that a test vaccine could be approved for political reasons without the clinical trials being completed?
A: On June 30, the US Food and Drug Administration stressed the importance of science over politics by announcing it has taken action for the “timely development of safe and effective vaccines to prevent COVID-19.” Significant federal funding has already been approved for some companies to begin manufacturing large quantities of their test vaccines and prepare individual doses in syringes ready for use. It has been reported that Phase 3 clinical trials for several candidate vaccines are just now beginning. To evaluate if a trial vaccine is unsafe, for example by creating a significant number of adverse conditions such as blood clots resulting in strokes, a “double-blind” administration of the vaccine is conducted Half the group is injected with the trial vaccine, while the other half is given a harmless injection such as a saline solution. None of the participants knows which is actually being administered. The subjects then return to their usual routines. They are frequently evaluated for the presence of antibodies, side effects and for COVID symptoms. At the end of the trial, the data from each group is compared. If the trial vaccine created antibodies and there were no symptoms, this could prove the trial vaccine was effective. If the group with the vaccine developed symptoms, it could prove the trial vaccine was not effective. If the vaccinated group developed unusual side effects, the conclusion could be reached it was unsafe. This process usually takes at least two months for the immunity to be proven, and for adverse findings to develop. And, of course if immunity is temporary, lasting only a few month, more study time would be needed to learn this.
This action taken by the FDA appears to make it clear that approval of any trial vaccine will not occur before the clinical trials have had the chance to prove safety and effectiveness. Peter Marks, MD, PhD, director of the FDA’s Center of Biologics Evaluation and Research stated, “Right now, neither the FDA nor the scientific community can predict how quickly data will be generated from vaccine clinical trials. …But make no mistake, the FDA will only approve and make available a COVID-19 vaccine if we determine it meets the high standards that people have come to expect of the agency.”
67. Coronavirus-19 during a hurricane
Q: If we are hit by a hurricane, how do we continue to control the spread of this pandemic?
A: In May, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) published a 22-page manual, “COVID-19 Pandemic Operational Guidance for the 2020 Hurricane Season.” This is focused on guiding state and local operations. Its purpose is to offer advance description of anticipated challenges to disaster operations posed by COVID-19, outline how FEMA plans to adapt its response and recovery operations, and to allow state and local officials to plan in advance.
FEMA separates all disaster planning into phases based on when activity is required. In this case, planning guidance is separated into response – while a hurricane disaster is underway, and recovery – restoring normal routines after the event is over.
FEMA has a well-established system layering their operations through its national center, 10 regional offices and multiple joint field offices. These guideline states that FEMA will continue to provide resources to hurricane affected areas when requested. Once the national COVID-19 national emergency declaration was issued on March 15, FEMA activated its national coordination efforts, and authorized $100 million in grants to states to allow them to prepare emergency responses to the pandemic. The newly issued hurricane guidelines are included in the required preparation activities supported by that action.
Specific topics are identified, and considerations are outlined for state and local response plans that must now include:
• Capability available to respond with reduced staffing;
• Continuity of essential functions with no interruptions;
• Ability to stabilize communications between groups and agencies;
• Ability to protect personnel that must be deployed to the field;
• Provided for adequate medical grade personal protective equipment (PPE);
• Hospitals to have evacuation plans for patients, staff and medical equipment;
• Plans exist for the medically appropriate evacuation/sheltering of high-risk patients;
During recovery, many considerations for “mass care” that would require advanced planning are identified and discussed, including:
• “Non-congregate sheltering” of displaced people – providing social distancing and isolation such as the use of hotel rooms and dormitories.
• Special needs addressed for people with disabilities or medical needs such as dialysis;
• Availability of isolation or quarantine areas in remaining congregate shelters;
• Medical supplies, PPE, and individualized pre-packaged food services for citizens, staff and volunteers.
It is comforting to note that in Connecticut, especially in the region around Hartford, this planning is underway and goals are being reached. It remains to be confirmed that FEMA supplies and support will meet demands. That assumption is challenged by past problems of offering testing supplies and PPE for “routine” (non-hurricane) pandemic operations.
68. A recent discovery about T cells and immunity
Q: What’s this I hear about a different way the body defends itself against an infection that doesn’t involve antibodies?
A: All research developing a vaccine has been focused on the development of an agent that can cause people to develop antibodies to combat coronavirus-19 without actually infecting them. The virus is pictured as a spherical object with many spikes. It is these spikes that react in contact with human cells allowing it to be drawn inside the cell where it reproduces thousands of copies of itself and moves on to infect other cells. Antibodies are generated that interrupt the spikes’ ability to penetrate new host cells. A recent study, not yet published for peer-review, has identified another mechanism the body uses to fight this disease. There are two specific types of white blood cells. These are named “T cells” and “B cells.” In a complex way, these interact to stop the ability of the virus to replicate itself once inside a host cell. Early findings indicate that T cells have a longer “memory” of the coronavirus than antibodies. If proven to be true, vaccines using this different approach could prove to offer immunity over greater periods of time. More research is indicated, especially because it’s possible that some antibodies may actually enhance the process of a virus entering host cells making the disease actually more infectious. The more we learn, it seems, the more we find there’s a lot more to be learned!
69. New 15-minute COVID-19 test approved
Q: Is there any improvement in rapid turn-around testing for COVID-29?
A: Early in July, the Becton Dickenson & Co. was awarded an emergency use authorization (EUA) for a hand-held “BD Veritor Plus System” testing device which can deliver results in 15 minutes. The device is authorized to be used in health care settings, and does not require sending samples to a laboratory for evaluation. This and other similar devices still under development will shorten the time spent in lines waiting to take a test. They also provide information earlier to permit better contact tracing and isolation of newly infected patients. As with all COVID-19 testing, questions of accuracy have been a problem. In clinical studies leading up to its approval, the new unit reaches up to 84% accuracy finding true positive cases, and 100% finding true negative results. In other words, as stated by the FDA, “there is a higher chance of false negatives, so negative results do not rule out infection.” “The results may also require another diagnostic test “prior to making treatment decisions or to prevent the possible spread of the virus due to a false negative.”
70. More on the “crisis standard of care”
Q: Are there hospitals that continue to have more patients than can be managed?
A: It has been reported that in the US, 5 months into the pandemic, there have been 1,000 medical and health workers who have died from COVID-19. The impact on the availability of remaining workers, and their comfort continuing to work in EMS and in hospitals cannot be underestimated.
Also, in Texas, it is now reported that tents are being set up outside several hospital emergency departments. Not to treat patients, but for ambulances to offload so they can return to service other patients. In these tents, patients are waiting often more than 4 hours, before a physician is available to see them.

Minister’s Column July 2020

Dear Ones:

We come to the end of the 2019-2020 congregational year. Our congregational life now slows down for a few months. I’m looking forward to time off for vacation (“staycation”) and study leave. I desperately need some time off at this point. And while using the world “desperately” in that last sentence, in a regular year, might seem overly dramatic, I trust you all understand that I— and all our UUS:E staff—desperately need some time off this summer. I am tired after these last three-and-a-half months of pandemic church. I am feeling raw, drained, worn out, worn down, not at my best self—not even close. Many of you feel these things too.

How could it be otherwise? We’re making our way through a global pandemic that will likely result in more than 200,000 American deaths—many that could have been prevented had we had competent national leadership. We’re making our way through the pandemic-related hyper-exposure of racial and class inequities in our nation, and vowing not to return to that old normal. And we are making our way through a national Black Lives Matter uprising in response to police violence, figuring out our place in it, figuring out how to work for substantive change. As liberal and progressive people of faith, we face these difficult and painful realities. They draw our attention, and we feel called to address them, called to engage, to struggle, to fight. This call is inherent in our seven UU principles. It is a central part of the mission of our UU faith. And of course, in order to pursue our mission, in order to uphold our principles, we also have to run the day-to-day operations of our congregation, manage the finances, maintain the building, educate our children, tune our pianos. And since March we’ve had the added challenge of working with new technologies, dealing with weak Wi-Fi signals, figuring out how to teach classes online, how to organize food drives, how to respond to a local police shooting, how to keep in touch with each other. So, yes I am feeling tired, raw, worn down, worn out, etc. How could it be otherwise?

But I also feel pride. I’m proud of our UUS:E staff for responding with grace to the realities of the pandemic. None of our staff has been perfect, but what they’ve given us is better than perfection. They’ve given us devotion, patience, heart, creativity, and love. I am so proud of them, and grateful too.

I’m also proud of our lay-leaders, our Policy Board and Program Council members, who have kept us moving along as a congregation under very difficult and quite novel circumstances. No, they have not been perfect either. But like our staff, they’ve given us better than perfection. They’ve given us commitment, flexibility, optimism, and love. They’ve made hard decisions. I’m proud of all of you for rolling with us through these frightening, unnerving, technologically challenging and isolating times. The trust you have put in the UUS:E staff and lay-leaders have been critical. The support you’ve shown us has made all the difference.

And, last but not least, I’m proud of myself. It’s been a rocky ride. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve not been my best self. But I look back now on everything that’s happened, including an 11-day sun-up to sun-down fast to urge the legislature back into session, and I feel pretty darn good about it. Raw, worn-down, worn-out, not my best self—yes. But I am beaming we pride too. Please know that about your minister.

Have a great summer friends! I will definitely “see” you along the way; and I look forward to the coming year. It will also be exhausting, but full of opportunity, full of ministry. With love,

—Rev. Josh

Letter to the JI

The following letter to the editor of the Journal Inquirer was published in edited form on June 16, 2020.

Dear Editor:

I was one of the many hundreds marching Saturday, June 6 from the Manchester Town Hall to the Police Station a mile away. At least half of the people gathered were white, and all mostly young and passionate. The most common chant was “Black Lives Matter.”

We marched by the Nazarene Church building at 466 Main Street that has had many uses. It is now part of the MACC (Manchester Area Conference of Churches) complex. It was the first religious home of Manchester’s Unitarian Universalist Society: East, now located at 153 West Vernon Street. The building reminded me that a young girl named Elizabeth Anderson attended the Society’s Sunday school in the 1970s. She has since become one of the world’s most renowned philosophers and is on the faculty of the University of Michigan. Her books have earned her an international reputation as a practical thinker.

The New Yorker a year ago termed Professor Anderson “…a champion of the view that equality and freedom are mutually dependent.” In one of her books, The Imperative of Integration with copyright in 2010 by Princeton University Press, she explains in great detail how she came to this view. One line stands out:

“It is necessary to block and dismantle the mechanisms that perpetuate unjust social inequality, and to realize the promise of a democratic state that is equally responsive and accountable to citizens of all identities.” From page 180 of her book.

After Saturday’s march across Manchester, I am now more convinced that Professor Anderson, this wonderful product of our town, is right. Equality and freedom are mutually dependent. For all of us. Saturday was a refreshing proof of her view. Very truly yours,

Malcolm F. Barlow

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19

Shared expectations lead to predictability.

61. Coronavirus-19 Mutations

Q: Have any mutations been detected in coronavirus-19?

A: In 1918, when The Great Influenza Pandemic first emerged, those who contracted the disease were mildly affected. During the 1919 second wave when it returned to the US, the fatality rate was very much higher. Scientists learned that the virus had mutated as it spread around the world. This history has caused today’s scientists to critically look for this possibility with coronavirus-19. A recent U.S. study by Scripps Research has identified one mutation that has occurred. This mutation has resulted in an increase in the number of “spikes” on the surface of each single virus particle called a virion. “The number of functional spikes on the virus is 4 or 5 times greater due to this mutation,” said Hyeryun Choe, a senior researcher. The spikes are the structures that allow the virion to enter host cells to reproduce – causing the person to become infected. It appears that this mutation increases the rate of infection – the ease with which the disease can be passed from one person to another. This research may explain why early outbreaks in some parts of the world did not overwhelm hospitals and health systems as much as others, such as Italy and New York. Concern is growing that this mutation is becoming the dominant agent of infection over time. This study has been presented for peer-review publication and advance notice has been given to encourage further research efforts. Other mutation studies are underway around the world and have already found different mutations. Future studies will focus on increased disease severity, mortality, and resistance to antibodies resulting from other mutations.

62. Latest on vaccine development – China

Q: Everyone is focused on having a vaccine. Are other countries at work on this?

A: Concern has recently been expressed over a recent report in the Philippine newspaper The Manila Times that China is widely testing one of its new vaccines. The article stated that the World Health Organization has identified 17 candidate vaccinations of which more than half involve Chinese companies or organizations. The specific vaccine being reported was developed by CanSino Biologies jointly with the Chinese Academy of Military Medical Sciences. It is claimed to have a “good safety profile” and a potential to prevent the disease caused by coronavirus-19. The current third phase testing has been authorized by China’s Central Military Commission for a period of up to one year and may include all members of the extensive Chinese military before testing is concluded. The report stated, “Its use cannot be expanded without further approvals.” The Chinese Military Defense authorities have refused reporters’ questions for clarification. The newspaper also reported, “CanSino added that it cannot guarantee the vaccine will ultimately be commercialized.”

All of this has led to widespread speculation that China’s strategy is to increase its military’s immunity from the disease without allowing the vaccine to be used by other country’s military leaders. It also raises the economic benefit to China if it can sell to others at a monopoly-level expanded price. The military and economic impact on international relations could be tremendous.

63. Fraud alert: scam contact tracing

Q: I received a call telling me I was in contact with someone who tested positive. I was asked to state my Medicare Number to verify that I was the person contacted. Is this appropriate?

A: A recent warning was released jointly by the US Department of Justice the US Health and Human Services and the US Trade Commission. “COVID-19 fraud is rapidly expanding. Operating contact tracing schemes is just one method that criminals use to target unsuspecting patients nationwide, attempting to steal their personal information and commit healthcare fraud,” said HHS Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Gary Cantrell, Asking for Medicare or Social Security Numbers is not part of legitimate contact tracing.

64. Mitigation processes in North Central Connecticut

Q. Is there a relationship between federal mitigation efforts and local officials?

A. In Connecticut, planning for disaster and emergencies since 2007 has been facilitated by five designated regions. Unlike most other states, Connecticut has no county government, and these five regions were created to be the focus for coordinating local programs and resources under the state-level program. The north-central region is called the Capitol Region Emergency Planning Council (CREPC). This region is made up of 41 towns centered around Hartford. The current pandemic is considered a health emergency, and each level of government (local, regional, state, and federal) have emergency management sections organized to lead specific responses. Thus, within the region in which Manchester, Vernon, Ellington, Hartford, and 37 other towns belong, the health and medical section has identified the local needs for personal protective equipment (PPE).” This includes face masks, gloves and gowns. The needs of hospitals, nursing homes, local health departments, and ambulance providers in the 41 towns and cities were included. This information is then sent to the state level Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (DEMHS). The state then consolidates the requests for all five regions and gives it to the national-level FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). This is an elaborate, but familiar system for those who frequently use it to manage disasters.

In a recent report from the north-central Connecticut emergency planning group (CREPC), the following information was provided: “The regional distribution center in West Hartford was opened on March 25 and operates every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The site continues to receive, stage, and distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) as it becomes available.” Trained volunteers and staff members from various towns and organizations organize the logistics of sorting and loading allocated supplies onto vehicles sent by the different local groups requesting these items. “Last week… we distributed 2.7 million pieces of PPE to first responder (fire, police, and EMS) agencies within the 41 communities, 99 long term care and assisted living (nursing home) facilities, and 37 home care and hospice agencies.” (In addition,) to date there have been 1.07 million pieces of PPE distributed to the 14 local public health agencies in (North Central Connecticut) Region 3.”

It is significant to note that many local people, groups, and agencies are effectively at work in Connecticut positively contributing to successful mitigation efforts during this pandemic.

65. “and one more thing…”

Q: What are some of the other coronavirus-19 bits of information people are talking about?

A: First, Crisis Standard of Care: When hospital capacity cannot meet the increasing demands of people in need, the usual standard of care cannot be provided.

  • In Texas, it was reported last week that ambulances bringing in COVID, as well as trauma, cardiac and other patients, are being held in the parking lot outside the emergency department entrance before the crew can bring the patient inside to be seen by a physician. This wait sometimes takes more than an hour, delaying medical care as well as tying up the ambulance from being available for other calls. This, with an increasing number of EMTs and paramedics becoming infected reduces the EMS responder’s ability to respond to other calls and the level of pre-hospital care available to a community.
  • In other jurisdictions, it is reported that ambulance crews responding to patients who are in cardiac arrest are directed not to perform CPR. Instead, they are to make themselves available for other calls. As a result, it will be up to the family or others calling 911 to arrange for the removal of the body.

Secondly, Waiver of liability at colleges: Heidi Li Feildman, a law professor at Georgetown University, published a column in the Los Angeles Times (reprinted in the July 2 edition of the local Journal Inquirer). She strongly urges readers to NOT to sign any COVID-19 waiver of liability for students entering college. From the college’s viewpoint, such waivers protect against possibly expensive judgments that could threaten the future of the institution. But Heidi points out that “the technical term for this sort of defense is “primary assumption of risk.” This prevents lawsuits from even being considered when the college fails to conform to CDC and other standards of prevention. This in turn may reduce the vigilance of college officials to strictly enforce appropriate standards. Heidi concludes, “under no circumstances should anyone sign a waiver for harm inflicted by COVID-19 caused by their college’s policies.” It could be said the same advice should apply to waivers requested by any group or agency providing a service to the consumer.

Litha / Midsummer Ritual

Sunflower Field

Join the UUS:E Pagan Study Group

Litha / Midsummer Ritual

Sunday June 21st, 6 PM via Zoom
All are Welcome!

As our lives take on unusual changes, please join us as we adapt and celebrate Litha, or Midsummer, via Zoom.  Our host will begin by casting a circle at her own altar and include in her circle all who wish to join the celebration as the Wheel of the Year turns.  We will have a little history, a ritual to bring us closer, hopefully, some songs as well as perhaps a chance to reflect on how we have grown, along with the young god, in these very different times.

Please plan on having a small snack and drink of some kind on hand so we can all share in cakes and ale.

To join our Zoom Meeting please contact the Unitarian Universalist Society: East office for the Zoom link @ 860-646-5151 or at uuseoffice@uuse.org

Awakening the Heart: Compassion Practices for Challenging Times

Spring flowers

Friday, June 5 at 10:00 AM, with Penny Field

Join Penny Field for a free 1-hour Zoom workshop on how to bring compassion practices into your life. Penny will share some of the teachings of several spiritual and scientific leaders in the field of compassion and the workshop will be highly experiential. Please make sure you have updated to Zoom 5.0 and please pre-register for the workshop. 

Penny Field LPC, NCC is a long time UUSE memeber and a licensed psychotherapist with 30 years of experience creating safe containers to hold the human experience. She trained in Mindful Self-Compassion with Kristen Neff, the founder of the Center for Self-Compassion, and has a decades long personal mindfulness and compassion practice, as well as many years of experience teaching mindfulness and self-compassion practices.

Registration information will be in the regular Wednesday and Saturday UUS:E eblasts. You can also contact Annie Gentile in the UUS:E office for registration information.

Mindfulness and Metta: Staying Grounded in the Midst of Pandemic

Spring Wildflowers

Monday, June 15 at 10:30 AM, with Peter Oliver and Stefanie Toise

Covid-19 has profoundly affected day-to-day life as we know it. Furthermore, we now continue into an uncertain future. In this experiential, one-hour workshop led by Peter Oliver and Stefanie Toise, participants will be introduced to two interrelated concepts and practices that support wellness: Mindfulness and Metta (or loving-kindness) meditation. Mindfulness has been defined as a purposeful moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experiences not with judgment, but with an attitude of curiosity and affection. Metta is a form of meditation that expresses positive, loving energy and compassion toward self and others. No prior experience with meditation is required. Participants are encouraged to join the workshop from a quiet and peaceful setting. The workshop should last approximately 1 hour.

Peter Oliver is a member of UUSE along with his wife, Laura Dunleavy, and their son, Kyle. A devout student of yoga, meditation, and the healing arts, Peter received foundational training in mindfulness-based stress reduction at the Center for Mindfulness at UMass Medical Center. Peter has also been teaching full time for over 30 years as a university professor.

Dr. Stefanie C.F. Toise, a healthcare consultant for over three decades, has designed and evaluated Integrative Medicine programs both nationally and internationally. Her research and clinical work have been instrumental in establishing Integrative Medicine modalities that result in sustainable health behavioral change. Dr. Toise has been a practicing yoga therapist for over twenty years and practicing meditator for over 45 years. She comes to UUS:E through her connection with the Rev. Drew Moeller.

Registration information will be in the regular Wednesday and Saturday UUS:E eblasts. You can also contact Annie Gentile in the UUS:E office for registration information.

Minister’s Column for May 2020

Hallelujah!

Dear Ones:

I hope and trust you are well. I write these words as we begin approaching the end of April. The COVID-19 infection curve in Connecticut appears to be flattening at this time, though the data isn’t consistent enough for us to know for sure. I am hopeful that by the time you read this we’ll have slightly greater clarity. And I am hopeful that as we enter more fully into May, we’ll start to hear reasonable, scientifically-based predictions of when we might safely open our meeting house to more regular activity.

Having said this, please know I don’t expect we will be able to resume regular activity in the very near future. Some statistical models suggest July as an earliest possible time. Others suggest much, much later. There are still so many unknowns. Even when we finally are able to return, we will likely do it in phases. Only small meetings at first, always with social distancing. Safety will be our highest priority. Can we return safely? What is our definition of safety? How will we measure safety? These will be our questions. Even though return is likely still many months away, the UUS:E Policy Board will begin discussing return scenarios at its May meeting. We want to be ready when the time comes.

For now, we continue in lockdown. We continue with social distancing. We continue trying to figure out how to be of service to those who are struggling. We continue trying to figure out how to live in this strange, isolating reality. In my pastoral conversations with many of you, and in my small group meetings and virtual office hours, I often ask the question, What are you looking forward to? Some of you respond that you are looking forward to online gatherings with family and friends, favorite TV shows, going outside for a hike, moments of creativity. Some of you respond with “I’m looking forward to going back to UUS:E!” Understandably, some of you have trouble answering the question. Especially now that we’re two months into the lockdown and the days and weeks are starting to blur together, it’s sometimes hard to know what we’re looking forward to. There’s another question I am starting to ask, which is a more difficult question to answer. What are you grieving? I started asking this question when I recognized that my oldest son turned 18 in April. That fact alone is hard to believe. But turning 18 feels like such a milestone. It signifies a transition to adulthood. There should be some public right-of-passage. High school graduation? Well, he’ll graduate, but it won’t be the quintessential high school graduation. There won’t be a public celebration. There won’t be a big party. I realized I am grieving the loss of this moment in his life. I was looking forward to it. As his parent, it’s my achievement too. It’s my time to feel pride. I’ve lost that.

I’m sure you’ve lost something to COVID-19 too. Or perhaps you’ve lost someone to COVID-19. What is the content of your grief? It’s important to ask what we’re looking forward to. Answering that question keeps us hopeful. But I don’t want to underestimate the loss we are also experiencing. We know it is good and right to grieve when we experience loss. We know it is spiritually healthy to feel the loss to its fullest, to let it live in us so that we can learn to live with it. So I ask you this questions as well: What have you lost? As always, I am available to talk further with you about this. I welcome your calls or emails. And I also encourage you to talk to each other. Naming our losses is part of the healing. And, ultimately, it will be part of our return to our beloved meeting house on West Vernon St. in Manchester.

With much love and care,

—Rev. Josh

 

Introducing Reflecting Pool

Reflecting Pool

Trinity Solar Webinar

Trinity Solar Flyer 4-2020

Tuesday, April 21, 1-2 PM

Are you wasting sunlight? If you haven’t looked into solar or want to go solar but haven’t found the time or the right “fit”, give Trinity the opportunity to make this a win-win-win!
In keeping with safe social distancing practices, Trinity is now providing its customers with consultations over the phone and the internet. They are able to determine if a home qualifies for a no-cost solar installation remotely and free of charge.
If you choose to advance and take advantage of the no-cost installation Trinity between now and May 31st, UUSE receives a $1500 contribution AND $1500 to the homeowner (see details in flyer). LINK TO FLYER.
David Luchetti will be hosting a webinar to highlight the partnership and program. Attendees will have the opportunity for Q&A at the end of the presentation.
Tuesday, April 14, 1-2 PM